India Today

Burari family's deadly leap of faith: How Lalit convinced others to kill themselves

The collective suicide in Burari was a case of a shared psychotic disorder. Experts warn that many Indian families are susceptible to such stress

Yellow. Orange. Pink. Beige. Yards of drapes descended from the iron mesh ceiling of the hallway, like an elaborate stage setting. From every loop dangled a human body, a choreo­graphy of puppets on strings. The nation watched in horror and stunned disbelief, as 11 members of a very normal family in a very normal neighbourhood of north Delhi committed mass suicide, for little-understood reasons, on July 1.

Weeks later, there is an increasing sense that the story of the Burari family could be the story of many families in India. The Burari tragedy has been followed by a raft of similar cases across the country, the latest being the death of six members of a family on July 14 in Jharkhand's Hazaribagh, unable to cope with the terminal illness of the only breadwinner of the family and the consequent burden of debt. Police files show, even before Burari, at least 10 such tragedies have occurred this year. Are suicides by family members, with premeditation and in cooperation, gaining ground?

TRAGEDY WITH NO NAME

Until July 1, few Indians in fact, few Delhiites had ever heard of Burari, a northern constituency of the National Capital Territory. In the earliest hours of that morning, a Sunday, not a soul heard the noise of human drama between illusion and reality, madness and sanity that snuffed out the lives of seven women, two men and two minors

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